Pear & Pine Nut Tart with Chocolate Sauce (RECIPE)

October 25, 2010 § 10 Comments

Envision finishing a delicious meal with family or friends when a plate of golden-brown pastry in a pool of chocolate sauce arrives in a cloud of rich, sweet scent. Then imagine taking a bite: flaky, tender dough gives way to a luscious amalgamation of warm pears and cream, the fruit’s flavor intensified by a sprinkle of lemon juice and the soft texture offset by toothsome pine nuts, all of it chased by a bittersweet chocolate sauce.

What you’d have is an unbeatable combination of ingredients that comprise a pear and pine nut tart with chocolate sauce.

As promised in Friday’s post (click here to see it) about my cooking class in Italy, here’s how to make the tart. We ate the dessert so eagerly that I didn’t have a chance to snap a photo of the plated dessert, but you can see the full, baked tarts above. (Also at the end is a great tip for prolonging the life of your vanilla beans.)

I like this recipe because it offers good “bang for your buck”: for its relative ease, you get an elegant, delectable dessert that’s perfect for company. And, if you don’t know how to make it already, you get to learn how to make pastry cream, a custard that’s used as a filling for cakes, tarts, cream puffs and eclairs and is a great addition to any baker’s repertoire.

This tart is a perfect way to cap off a dinner party, or a unique alternative to apple pie for your Thanksgiving table.

PEAR & PINE NUT TART WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE

Adapted from the Il Falconiere cooking school

Yield: 12 servings

Total Time: Approx. 1 hour, maybe a bit more the first time you make it

Planning Notes: You can make the pastry cream before preparing the rest of the meal and keep it cool in the fridge. You’ll want to time it so that the tart is done when you’re ready to have dessert so that it’s nice and warm when served.

Ingredients

For the pastry cream:

4 1/4 cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean

Zest from one lemon

8 egg yolks

8 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons flour

For the cake:

1 17.3-ounce package of puff pastry, thawed in the fridge

8 medium-sized pears

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons sugar plus more for sprinkling on top of the tart

4 tablespoons pine nuts

1 egg and a bit of water

For the chocolate sauce:

10.5 ounces or 1.5 cups chocolate

2/3 cups heavy cream

Cooking Instructions

1 — Take the puff pastry out of the fridge and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2 — Prepare the pastry cream. Put the milk and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Split the vanilla bean with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Bring it just to a boil.

While the milk is coming to boil, separate eggs. Put egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk in the sugar, whisking until the mixture is thick and pale yellow; you know it’s good when you pick up the whisk and a ribbon of the mixture drips off the whisk. Sprinkle the flour on top of the egg mixture and whisk in the flour until well combined.

Chef Richard whisking the egg yolks and sugar

Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mix through a strainer or sieve, about a quarter at a time, while whisking constantly so you don’t cook the eggs. (It’s great to enlist a partner to help you here if you can, so one of you can pour the milk while the other whisks.)

Rinse out and dry the saucepan. Put the custard mixture into the saucepan and simmer over low heat, about 15-20 minutes, until it’s thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. Stir frequently with the wooden spoon to prevent scorching on the bottom. Take it off the heat to cool.

3 — Prepare the pears. Peel the pears. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds, stems and cores. Slice each quarter into thin slices (about 1/4 inch thick) and place in a large bowl.

Sprinkle pears with lemon juice and sugar. Mix gently to coat the pears.

4 — Lightly flour a clean surface. Roll out both sheets of puff pastry into long rectangles about 8 inches by 20 inches and 1/8 inch thick (about the thickness of a pie or tart crust).

Using a sharp paring knife, cut 2-inch vertical slits along the top half of the pastry rectangle, spaced about 3-4 inches apart. (This is so that steam can escape while it’s cooking; it will also show you where to cut the tart into servings.)

5 — Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg with a couple of spoonfuls of water in a small bowl. Get out a pastry or basting brush.

6 — Focus on what’s now the bottom half of the pastry rectangle. Spoon the pears along the top portion of the bottom half. Spread the pastry cream along the bottom portion. Sprinkle pine nuts on top of pears.

Brush all edges of the pastry rectangle with the egg wash. Flip the top half of the pastry on top of the bottom half, seal the edges and trim them with a knife or pastry roller so it looks nice. Sprinkle with sugar.

Me brushing the puff pastry edges with egg wash

7 — Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Transfer pastries to baking pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Golden-brown baked tart

8 — While it’s baking, make the chocolate sauce. Put 1-2 inches of water in the bottom pot of a double boiler and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Roughly chop the chocolate and place in the top pot of the double boiler; melt it. When it’s fully melted, add the cream and mix thoroughly. Keep warm until pastry is cooked.

Serving Notes

Serve by slicing the pastry along the slits and placing each serving onto a plate. Spoon the chocolate sauce over the pastry, topping with a sprig of mint and a few pine nuts if desired.

Great tip for extending your vanilla bean’s life

Anyone who’s bought and cooked with a vanilla bean knows the things are really expensive! The good news is you can extend your vanilla bean’s life beyond one recipe even after you’ve scraped out the seeds. Wash the scraped-out bean, let it dry, and put it in an air-tight container of sugar or breadcrumbs. The bean will infuse the sugar or crumbs with its aroma and flavor.

Great use for vanilla sugar: Use it instead of regular sugar when making whipped cream to top a dessert.

Great use for vanilla breadcrumbs: Coat sea bass filets.

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